Is a World Cruise on your Bucket List?

Lisa Spiller

We boarded the Silver Shadow in Singapore and immediately embarked on an exploration of what was to be our floating resort for the next three months of the world cruise. The voyage was five months in total, visiting 67 destinations, 34 countries and five continents. We joined 350 travelers two months into the bucket list journey.

Making quick observations with the critical eyes of an experienced travel advisor, I was a little apprehensive about the boutique size of the ship and limited amenities available to mark the time for the three months lying ahead of us. However, the pixie dust started to weave a spell over us after only the first 24 hours.

Marina beach, Chennai India

I was greeted with a warm bear hug by the Food and Beverage Director whom I worked with previously on The World mega yacht. We made plans for lunch, drinks and dinner. Within 24 hours, crew members addressed us by name, and we not only knew their names, but were able to frame them within the context of their life story; their home country, their family, their career experience, and their ambitions. We recognized the shop manager on board, who sailed with us previously, and we bonded with hysterically funny Cruise Director Vicky van Tassel.

We joined a golf putting contest with friendly competitors and walked away with 15 random, engaging new friends from Australia, China, California and Seattle. The loudest in the bunch wanted to move to Naples, so we agreed to meet over lunch to solidify our new friendship born over three putts.

The atrium bar on deck five was a social living room that magnetized guests to gather. We were introduced to several friendly guests who invited us to join them ashore and to join their trivia team. Friendships were sparked, dinner dates were made, life histories were exchanged, and the world cruise experience began.

Pre-dinner cocktails were an institution. The bar on deck five was alive with the sound of exuberant chatter over live piano and guitar. Plush lounge chairs cradled sequined gowns and tailored tuxedos. Seasoned world cruisers smiled from their tables, eyeballed newcomers like us, and invited us to join them for a drink and dinner.

In the main dining room, guests spontaneously sprung up to dance the boogie-woogie, the cha-cha, the Electric Slide and Macarena to live music with joyous abandon and contagious camaraderie. Our waiter pulled me out of my seat, and we joined the flash mob of international experience-seekers living their best lives dancing like nobody’s watching.

Eating roasted ants in the Amazon

By dessert, the bridge instructors stopped by our table and invited us to join them for dinner the following night. They were on their fifth world cruise, along with 300 others who return year after year. Everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid that Silversea was pouring, and we were thirsty.

We arrived in Penang, Malaysia and explored the Island’s spectacular Buddhist and Hindu temples, headed to Phuket, Thailand, known best for beaches, foodie culture, national parks and hippie-like nightlife. From Thailand we ventured to Chennai, India and hired a private guide to experience “hidden India,” the rich Indian culture through the eyes of a local. In reflection, our best experiences were those that we planned independently with a private guide. Many of our fellow travelers not only hired private guides, but they joined overland journeys that took them deep into the continent for several days of exploration

One day blurred into the next as we explored some of the world’s most exotic destinations including the Maldives, the Seychelles, Réunion Island, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zanzibar and South Africa before circumnavigating Africa and crossing the Atlantic to head into the Amazon.

We experienced unforgettable bucket list adventures with a community of fellow wanderlusts and took photos that we will reflect upon in wonder for a lifetime.

How did we occupy our time on sea days? We woke to the sun, ordered caviar and champagne for breakfast or climbed five decks to the small fitness center for a yoga or Pilates class. The guest lecturer program onboard was outstanding, featuring two lectures a day from a randomly fascinating selection of public figures like astronaut Scott Kelly who spent a year in space; 70s singer and songwriter of The Byrds Roger McGuinn who wrote “Tambourine Man,” Nelson Mandella’s personal secretary, a British Airways Concorde pilot; a rocket scientist who headed up the NASA space program, a CNN correspondent and a Grammy Award-winning songwriter for Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Patti LaBelle.

Learning the game of Mancala in Africa

Equally as interesting as the destinations and activities was this curious collection of strangers that became a community onboard. Our fellow travelers were an international mix from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and about 50% from the United States. The language spoken onboard was English and the median age was about 76 years old. There was a hearty population of solo travelers at about 10% of the population.

Two gentlemen hosts, who were laughingly referred to as “gigolos” hailing from Canada and Australia, hosted daily dance classes, community dinner tables and cocktail parties for those traveling solo. By the end of the cruise, we knew everyone, and each had a unique life story. Most were self-made entrepreneurs in the medical field, real estate development, mergers and acquisitions, the jewelry business, the automotive sales business and a few random celebrities. Nearly all of them were onboard for the full five months. A good portion had sailed on previous world cruises and evolved into somewhat of an entitled clique.

The food and wine programs onboard were best in class. The Food and Beverage Director had a pager that dinged incessantly. He and his team planned countless special events for the world travelers including an exclusive dinner at a winery in Marlborough, New Zealand and a Freddie Mercury tribute concert in Zanzibar, while also catering to every guest who desired to throw a cocktail party for 60 of their closest friends. Private parties were de rigueur onboard, and invitations flew out daily for private guest hosted lunches, dinners and themed events.

As a travel advisor, one of my biggest responsibilities was to coordinate and host cocktail parties, lunches and dinners for our clients. The F&B team not only planned the menus and paired the wines, but they also printed invitations and table cards for us. Entertaining made easy! By the end of the cruise, my calendar looked like the Naples social season charity register.

After three months onboard, we made many new friends and had a lifetime of memories. When I asked my fellow travelers if they would do it again, I found the answer was a resounding YES! A significant number had already signed up for the 2025 and 2026 world cruises. When I asked “why?”, for many, the answer was the sheer pleasure of traveling around the world with a community of people who provided them with social companionship and the comfort of a crew that pampered them, taking care of virtually every need.

For me? The compelling draw was the itinerary, the adventure of discovering new destinations, gaining an understanding of other cultures and learning how the rest of the world lives. Highlights for me included India, the Seychelles, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Cape Town, South Africa, and Namibia. Stay tuned for some of these stories in my next travelogue.

Lisa is a Luxury Travel Advisor with Preferred Travel of Naples.

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